January 30, 2012

NBA State of the Union Address

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With seemingly 10 games scheduled every single night due to the shortened season and this important thing called “school” starting again, it has been difficult to keep up with the NBA season. Some perennial contenders have struggled, while some teams have outperformed expectations. Then there are the Washington Wizards, who are every bit as terrible as advertised. Already at the quarter mark of the schedule, it’s about time we take a look at what has transpired this NBA season.Let’s begin with the 4-16 Wizards. Initially, there seemed to be some promise surrounding the team; John Wall, who was poised for a breakout sophomore campaign, would be surrounded by young shooters like Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, and anchored by big men JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. Then we realized that no one except Wall realizes “pass” means throwing the ball towards the teammate and not towards that metal circle on the backboard. Consider this: five of their Top-six scorers — including 6-11, 260-pound Andray Blatche — shoot less than 41 percent from the field. There are only 14 qualified players in the entire league outside Washington who have a field goal percentage less than 41 percent.Then there’s the talented JaVale McGee who can become a great defensive center, but suffers from something known as “being dumb.” Last year, he was one point away from a triple-double and proceeded to go 1-on-1 every time he touched the ball to try to get that one point. Needless to say, he turned it over or threw up a brick on four possessions in a row before finally mercifully scoring on a putback dunk. This year, he had a fast-break and proceeded to pass to himself off the backboard and slam it home. Pretty cool play, but his coach, the recently fired Flip Saunders, didn’t think so; Saunders benched him for the rest of the game for his completely unnecessary showboating.On a more positive note, the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets have all surpassed expectations to start the season. All three of these teams have something in common: they all have very rounded, deep teams with no bonafide star. In this superstar-driven league, teams led by Roy Hibbert, Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson — no matter how great the supporting cast is — should never be mentioned in the same breath as the Heat or Thunder. However, due to the overcrowded schedule, their depth is simply too much for teams that rely on one star when they are playing their fourth game in five days. Despite their current success, it would shock me if the Sixers or Nuggets went far in the playoffs. Sixers head coach Doug Collins is notorious for not letting up in any regular season game, so I question their freshness going into the playoffs, even with a deep team. The Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the NBA by a comfortable margin, a pace that will be almost impossible to maintain when teams start grinding out possessions in the playoffs. It remains to be seen how they will perform in a slow, half-court game. The Pacers, on the other hand, I do see putting up major resistance against the Bulls and Heat in the playoffs because they are sitting at 13-6 even with Danny Granger — who scored over 25 a game a few years ago — somehow shooting 37 percent from the field. Additionally, they have the most underrated closer in the NBA in David West, who took almost every last second shot, instead of Chris Paul, during his stay with the Hornets. Chris Paul even dubbed him the infamous “17-foot Assassin” for his late-game heroics. Hey, I never said it was a good nickname.Speaking of Chris Paul, the most intriguing storyline of the year has been the cross-town rivalry of the Lakers and the Clippers. After the NBA blocked the Paul-to-Lakers trade, tension was already high, but the testiness of their second match-up — there were six technical fouls and one ejection — pushed it to another level. Despite the Lakers starting the season just 12-9, I still expect them to go farther in the playoffs than the Clippers. Watching Vinny Del Negro coach the Clippers is like watching a 16 year old get the keys to his father’s Maserati; he has no idea what to do with it and is terrified deep down that he is going to crash and burn. Additionally, the Lakers have had the hardest schedule out of every team thus far, and they have this guy who shoots a lot too; he helps. Regardless, I think a playoff series between these newly formed rivals would be pretty damn fun.Let’s end this with everybody’s favorite team: the New York Knicks. If you haven’t heard yet, they are not good; they are, in fact, bad. They have the same record as the New Jersey Nets — a team without their second best player, Brook Lopez, that is relying heavily on contributions from rookie MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries, Kim Kardashian’s ex-boy toy.Without a real point guard, Stoudemire’s most valuable ability — rolling to the basket on pick-and-rolls — is completely unused. Their offense is primarily either Amare or Anthony taking players one-on-one, then either shooting or making one pass for a contested three-pointer. This is no way to run an NBA offense with such talented players, and it raises serious questions about Mike D’Antoni’s ability to run this team; in fact I’ll make a not-so-bold prediction. By the end of the season, Mike D’Antoni will no longer be the coach of the New York Knicks.

Original Author: Albert Liao

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